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TMJ (Temporomandibular Disease)

Tense Jaw

TMJ is an initialism for Temporomandibular Joint syndrome or disease – but really means a tense jaw. These joints connect the lower jawbone to your skull. When your TMJ becomes inflamed due to overuse or stress, pain can be present during chewing, speaking, swallowing, and yawning. If you have a tense jaw these everyday activities are painful and can restrict movement.

If you notice one or more of these symptoms please tell your dentist, and don’t wait till your next cleaning:

  • jaw pain
  • ringing, pain, or stiffness near your ears
  • clicking or popping when you yawn or when jaw moves
  • any swelling in jaw
  • any muscle spasms in or near the jaw
  • a change in alignment of the top or bottom teeth
  • a locked jaw or a jaw that restricts the opening of the mouth


10 Things You Can Do To Prevent a Tense Jaw

  1. Relax your face. Remember “lips together, teeth apart”.
  2. Avoid grinding your teeth. If you have a history of night grinding or bruxism, talk to your dentist about a night mouth guard. This can help prevent TMJ symptoms and also help protect your teeth from damage.
  3.  Avoid chewing gum. The repetitive motion of chewing can increase jaw tension and can contribute to pain.
  4. Practice good posture at your desk, on the phone, and when driving your car. A lot of stress can be held in the neck and jaw when your posture is incorrect.
  5. Use both sides of your mouth to chew. If you are avoiding one side of your mouth while chewing, this can increase tension. Also, talk to your dentist if you are avoiding the other side of your mouth due to sensitivity, you may have tooth decay or a cavity.
  6. Stretch your mouth carefully, up, down, right and left by opening your mouth in those directions.
  7.  Deep breathing exercises can help reduce pain. Find a sitting meditation or exercise that works for you.
  8. Massaging the jaw near the cheekbone can help in certain cases. Place slight pressure on the jaw and move in a circular motion.
  9. Try a stress relieving activity, like a nature hike or verbalize frustration to reduce emotional tension that may be held in your jaw.
  10. If you are able, a Nonsteroidal anti-Inflammatory drugs or (NSAID) like Ibuprofen (advil), Naproxen (Aleve), or an Analgesic like Acetaminophen (Tylenol) could be used to reduce pain and inflammation. Please read and follow the dosages and only take these medications if your doctor allows.


Treatment for TMJ

Some treatments for TMD include muscle relaxants, NSAIDs, stretching, or custom oral appliance. Severe cases may require surgery, for example if the jaw is dislocated, the TMJ is arthritic, or injured. However, most cases of TMD resolve when stress is removed and the jaw is able to relax.

If you have TMJ or symptoms of a tense jaw make an appointment with an Ann Arbor Smiles Dentist today by calling (734) 677-8700!

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